More employers offer same-sex benefitsNews added by Benefits Pro on June 27, 2014

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Joined: September 07, 2011

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By Dan Cook

Talk about impact: One year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, 34 percent more employers are offering benefits to couples in same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships than did prior to the ruling.

The source of this information, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, said fully 80 percent of employers who offer benefits to workers now offer coverage to such couples. This data comes from employers in states that recognize same-sex unions and states that don’t.

Section 3 of DOMA prevented the federal government from “recognizing any marriages between gay or lesbian couples for the purpose of federal laws or programs, even if those couples are considered legally married by their home state,” according to the website DOMA still permits states to decide whether or not to recognize such unions.

The foundation also reported that 55 percent of employers offer such employee benefits as health care, disability and life insurance “in an effort to be comprehensive and recognize all family settings throughout the United States.”

“We are seeing a significant shift in employers providing benefits to same-sex couples due to the Supreme Court ruling made one year ago today, as well as changes in state laws which resulted from that landmark decision,” said Michael Wilson, CEO of the International Foundation. “Some employers are making changes in order to remain compliant with the law, while others are working to create a more inclusive corporate culture through their benefit plans.”

Among the findings of the survey, “Employee Benefits for Same-Sex Couples”:
  • Among employers that operate in states where same-sex marriage is not legal, 32 percent now extend benefit rights to all same-sex couples, both married and unmarried;
  • 58 percent of employers reported that recent changes in legislation and legal rulings have had an impact on their organization;
  • 55 percent have actively communicated legislative changes to their staff;
  • 39 percent have noticed an increase in human resource questions/contacts from employees.
The foundation’s study indicates that most employers who now offer such benefits will continue to do so. Evidence to support this conclusion includes:
  • 60 percent say they recognize all types of families;
  • 47 percent feel it’s the right thing to do;
  • 39 percent stated marriage is not recognized in their state;
  • 28 percent said employees are staying in domestic partnerships or civil unions.
“Despite the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Section 3 of DOMA, employers recognize that many states do not have legislation supporting same-sex marriage or civil unions,” said Julie Stich, director of research at the International Foundation. “As a result, employers are taking steps to continue or establish new benefits for same-sex couples in order to ensure employees and their spouses are happy and healthy, and receiving benefits.”

The foundation said it gathered responses for the survey from 538 corporate human resources and benefits professionals, and industry experts.

See also: 8 things employers must do to comply with post-DOMA rules

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